If unwanted emails — often called spam — clog your inbox, you’re not alone. Some experts estimate spam accounts for over 40% of all email traffic worldwide.
Unfortunately, a lot of spam is carefully designed by their senders to bypass the spam filters built into webmail and Internet service providers’ email platforms. While much of that mail consists of clever sales pitches, many have links and content that are scams.
According to Krista Wrona, who heads Policy, Governance & Training, Fraud Risk Management, at TD Bank, email has made it easy for criminals to send such scams to millions of people at very little cost.
“So even if just a tiny percentage of recipients respond, the perpetrators can make a lot more money than robbing a store, a bank, or some other establishment,” she explained. “And the chances of getting caught are slim.”
To keep you safe, Krista urges you to keep the following considerations in mind when handling your email:
Confirm senders of important messages.
While banks and other financial services providers might send you important and sometimes government-mandated notifications, they will never ask you for personal information or to click on a link as a way to respond.
This type of email is called a phishing email because the sender is “fishing” for your information. If you receive any such message but it seems urgent or serious, call your bank’s customer service number and talk to a live agent to find out if the message is legitimate or not. You should note that banks will never call you asking for personal information or credentials.
Don’t open emails from people or businesses you don’t know.
Many fraudulent messages get opened by using enticing subject lines with promises of health or wealth. These can be especially appealing to people who may be suffering chronic illnesses or financial distress. If you do open such a message, do not open any attachments, or click on any links. Either one can download malware onto your computer.
One type of malware called spyware can copy your login information — ID and password — for your bank, other financial services provider, credit card, or favorite online merchant. It will then send it to the identity thief who can use it to drain your accounts or run up charges.
Keep your anti-virus software updated.
Every personal computer should have anti-virus protection. While most of this software is inexpensive, free versions are available for the budget-conscious and can still provide good protection. Free or not, it’s important to keep your anti-virus software up to date. That’s because new types of viruses and other forms of malware are always being created. Not only do criminals want to sneak by the latest versions of anti-virus software, but they also want to take advantage of users whose software is outdated.
Always double-check a sender’s address.
Even if you do get messages from people you know or businesses you patronize, proceed with caution. Sometimes it might say the name of a familiar business, but if you click on the name, you might see that the sender’s email address is much different than what you thought. This type of fraud is called spoofing.
Watch out for bogus offers and requests for help.
If an offer to sell you a product or service at a drastic discount sounds too good to be true, it likely is. You should delete all requests for you to send money. There are also requests that may seem harmless, like clicking on a link to sign a petition for some issue you support. But the link itself could download malware.
Even if it doesn’t, just adding your name and email address to a petition can result in that information getting shared with other senders, resulting in you getting even more spam.
What to do If you get scammed
If you fall victim to a scam, especially if it involves your bank or credit card, call your financial institution immediately to report the fraud. Fraud departments are set up to minimize any losses and investigate the crime.
Also, call the police and file a report. While the police may not be able to mitigate any financial losses or even investigate, the report can help make them aware of what might be a new type of scam. In turn, they can issue a community alert.
For more information on personal finance topics
If you have more questions about other personal finance topics that matter to you, visit the Learning Center on TD Bank’s website.
We hope you found this helpful. This article is based on information available in September 2022 and is subject to change. It is provided as a convenience and for general information purposes only. Our content is not intended to provide legal, tax, investment, or financial advice or to indicate that a particular TD Bank or third-party product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.